First Reaction to Saif, Dimple Kapadia’s Political Drama ‘Tandav’

Here’s how Saif Ali Khan’s Amazon Prime Video series Tandav pans out. 

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A politically charged atmosphere greets us from the opening frame itself. A kisaan (farmers) rally is underway, election results are eagerly awaited, the violence is deeply embedded and implicit as individual ambitions and greed take over. Tandav, created and directed by Ali Abbas Zafar thrusts us headlong into this all-pervasive slow burn political drama. Samar Pratam Singh (Saif Ali Khan) is the heir apparent to his politician father’s legacy. While a lot is packed into the first 5 episodes, the familiarity to the arc and predictability in the story-telling eventually ensure that the pleasures slowly dwindle.

A still from <i>Tandav.</i>
A still from Tandav.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Samar looks like a guy always hatching a menacing plan in his head but there is little in terms of concrete success. Probably once all the episodes have been consumed one would get a better perspective on the character of Samar and his motivations but basis the initial few episodes it’s Anuradha Thakur, a close associate of Samar’s father and senior party worker who enthrals us with her on screen presence. It’s tough to tear ones self away when Dimple Kapadia comes on screen. Much of the power she wields is not explicitly spelt out or spoken of but we still feel it, thanks to her brilliant command over her character.

A still from <i>Tandav.</i>
A still from Tandav.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Matching her energy is Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, playing the charismatic student leader Shiva, who is precariously poised to take on political heavy weights soon. Each time they are in frame they lure us in and Tandav grips. But this happens only sporadically. In fact by the end of episode 2, the whole “rajneeti” and “chanakyaneeti” metaphor to manoeuver along the beaten track simply ticks the checklist we have when settling in for a political drama.

A still from <i>Tandav.</i>
A still from Tandav.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

Although it’s interesting to see how Gaurav Solanki’s (Article 15) writing draws from reality. The kisaan rally to the azadi chants in the VNU university, the close assessment of student elections and police brutality, the threat of authoritarianism and murky deals struck is commendable but sometimes overstating the case simply leaves the story enervated .

Also some casting choices are suspect. Sarah Jane Dias, Shonali Nagrani with their single tone expressions and not a hair out of place look stick out like sore thumbs and Ali Abbas Zafar’s perfectly created world seems too polished for the raw, ravenous power hungry games that are being played out.

One can form a decisive opinion about Tandav only after watching the remaining 4 episodes and there is always hope that the show will redeem itself but as of now after the first 5 episodes, it just seems like an average attempt at creating something that with little more thought and effort could have been compellingly crafted.

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